STILLWATER, Okla. – It was a thrilling finish worth reliving, and the Gonzaga Bulldogs were doing just that in the locker room.
Kevin Pangos described the start of the play in animated fashion. Kelly Olynyk jumped in next and Elias Harris sat back in his chair and shouted, “I was so glad when that shot when in.”
Gary Bell Jr. looked across the way at Mike Hart and said, “That was a killer screen.”
Bell was sidelined for roughly 7½ minutes in the second half with a right knee injury. He returned and missed three shots that left head coach Mark Few wondering if he needed to make a substitution. Few stayed with Bell and the sophomore guard delivered a 3-pointer with 37 seconds left to propel No. 10 Gonzaga past No. 22 Oklahoma State 69-68 in nonconference men’s basketball, stunning a mostly orange-clad sellout crowd of 13,611 on Monday at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“Mike set a screen and I was wide open,” Bell said. “I was able to set my feet and Coach ‘D’ (Donny Daniels) was telling me earlier today when I set my feet, it’s money.”
Bell made just 3 of 11 shots, but he connected on the decisive one to settle a back-and-forth contest.
“Coach Tommy (Lloyd) told me the next one was going down,” said Bell, who wasn’t sure how he hurt his knee but said it was very painful. “It turned out that the next one happened to be the key one.”
At 13-1, Gonzaga is off to its best start as a D-I program. GU has won four straight and improved to 5-0 against Big 12 Conference foes. OSU (10-2) is 0-5 against the Zags since 2004.
Pangos kept Gonzaga in the game with 18 first-half points, picking up where he left off from his 31-point effort against Baylor on Friday. He made two free throws with 44 seconds left to give GU a 32-31 lead at half. The Bulldogs led 19-8 early, but bogged down with 10 turnovers, eight in the final 10:15.
Olynyk, who sat out most of the first half with two fouls, made up for lost time in the second half, pouring in 21 points and grabbing nine rebounds, seven offensive. Several of those led to putback baskets as GU rallied from three-point deficits twice the final 6 minutes.
“They weren’t helping off the guards because Gary and Kevin played so well in the first half,” said Olynyk, who scored 22 points in the second half of GU’s 71-69 win over Washington State. “Things opened up and it worked out.”
Said Cowboys coach Travis Ford: “He dominated the game in the second half. A lot of them just came on effort, his physicality and putting them back. I know he made some free throws and things like that, but he just manhandled us.”
Still, Gonzaga trailed 65-64 after OSU freshman point guard Marcus Smart’s rebound and finish in the lane with 1:03 remaining. Gonzaga called a timeout and hoped to get the ball inside to Olynyk, but the Cowboys took away that option.
Pangos worked off a high ball-screen down the right side of the lane and fired a cross-court pass to Bell, who was alone for a 3-pointer.
“I attacked the big and got into the lane and they all collapsed,” said Pangos, who finished with 23 points, five assists and four rebounds.
Away from the ball, Hart picked off Bell’s defender. “I kind of read what Kevin was doing and I’ve seen him make that cross-court pass when he reads the help,” Hart said. “He found Gary and I just tried to give Gary a little extra space with a flare screen.”
Bell’s clutch shot put GU on top 67-65. Olynyk fouled out with 8.7 seconds left, but Smart, who led OSU with 23 points, missed both free throws. Pangos buried two free throws with 4.3 seconds left to boost GU’s lead to 69-65. Phil Forte hit a 3 at the buzzer.
“To withstand all the rallies and to make the plays at the defensive and offense end and really get after them on the glass like we did,” said Few, whose club opens WCC play against Pepperdine on Thursday. “Just a great night for us.”